Weapons: Elderly, Effective, Cheap, Indispensable

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September 22, 2020: One of the elderly and low tech, but highly popular battlefield weapons is the M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) disposable (use once) rocket launchers After 2001 the U.S. Army revived its 1970s era LAW and the new version was more compact (51cm/20 inches long, 66mm/2.6 inches in diameter), lighter (3.5 kg/7.7 pounds) but not much cheaper (about $2,000 each). LAW has a one kg (2.2 pound) warhead that can still knock out light armored vehicles and unarmored ones as well. LAW is most often used against enemy troops inside bunkers and buildings. There are two LAW versions available; one with an anti-armor warhead and the more popular one with an anti-structure warhead.

The upgrades for the M72 keet coming. The 2021 version features a new rocket motor that allows LAW to be fired from within a building or other structure. The new propellent also produced less smoke and flash. This was important for keeping the location of the user less obvious to the enemy.

The LAW was revived because it has several advantages. It is compact, light and cheap. Since the 1980s the U.S. Department of Defense had bought several heavier and more expensive weapons to do what the LAW does. One example was the SMAW (Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon). This was a 7.7 kg (17 pound) Israeli design that was developed in response to the Russian RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). But the SMAW launcher costs $14,000, and each rocket costs more than their RPG equivalents (and are a bit more effective.) Actually, many troops have expressed an interest in just getting the RPG, which has a larger (1.7 kg/6 pound) warhead, and is a lot cheaper. The RPG launcher goes for about $500 each, brand new, and the more advanced rockets can be had for under a hundred dollars each. However, the compactness of the LAW, and better accuracy, does make a difference on the battlefield, and is considered worth the cost. The LAW is simple, light, easy-to-use and relatively cheap. It’s hard to improve on that, which is why the LAW is making a comeback. Actually, it never went away in many other armies.

In 2014 Israel ordered over 25,000 LAWs from the United States. This was a purchase Israel first looked into back in 2008. They did not follow through with large orders until 2014, having found that LAW was the way to go based on their own recent battlefield experience and the American experience using LAW in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was the last large Israeli order for LAW because after that Israel got a manufacturing license for LAW and now manufactures them in Israel.

 


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